When you are a stressed pregnant mom, your stress is felt by your baby. Your stress can influence your baby’s immune system and even their sensitivity to allergens and their asthma risk.
As mothers, you know that you have a deep connection with your unborn baby. You feel that you and your baby are both separate and one.
Now a study (American Thoracic Society. “Mother’s Prenatal Stress Predisposes Their Babies To Asthma And Allergy, Study Shows.” ScienceDaily 19 May 2008. 9 June 2008) from the Harvard Medical School has found that your connection is not just emotional. A stressed pregnant mom may pass some of that stress on to her unborn baby in the form of increased sensitivity to allergens. This increased sensitivity may even increase the risk of asthma for the child.
The predisposition to asthma is only partly genetic. Exposure to come substances in the environment, such as dust mites, can increase the chance of developing asthma.
Researchers monitored the level of stress in each mother, combined with her level of exposure to dust mites. They found an increased level of IgE (a marker of the child’s immune response) in babies from stressed pregnant moms, even if the dust mite exposure was low. The mother’s stress magnified the baby’s immune response, even with low level exposure to dust mites.
“This research adds to a growing body of evidence that links maternal stress such as that precipitated by financial problems or relationship issues, to changes in children’s developing immune systems, even during pregnancy,” said Dr. Rosalind J. Wright, M.D., M.P.H, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
“This further supports the notion that stress can be thought of as a social pollutant that, when ‘breathed’ into the body, may influence the body’s immune response similar to the effects of physical pollutants like allergens, thus adding to their effects.”
There are several important ideas to remember. First, this does not necessarily mean that these children will develop asthma. More follow-up research is needed for that.
Second, the study suggests that it is the combination of stress and exposure to allergens which causes the problem. So stress is just magnifying the risks.
And third, we all get stressed. Financial stress, relationship problems, work issues happen. A pregnant mom doesn’t have control over all the events in her life. Even if you try to remain a Buddha of sanguineness, you will not harm your baby if you loose it one day.
The biggest point is in Rosalind’s observation that stress is like a pollutant. Our country has made great strides in improving air quality and water quality. Now we must work on our inner-life quality. Instead of viewing stress as a necessary evil of modern life, we must actively envision a slower, quieter life. A life with contemplation. Appreciation. A life with less stress.
We need to reduce stress in our lives for ourselves. But if we can not be motivated for ourselves, then we may be motivated for our born and unborn children.